No matter how wonderful the child care experience we arrange for our kiddos, sometimes separating from mom or dad is a dreaded moment. Keeping in mind that child care providers are our partners in this parenting journey — remember, they’ve experienced way more child development scenarios than any of our individual households have — they are the best resource for helping you work through a phase in which drop-off is a true struggle.
In partnership with Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool, whose teachers and directors offer a wealth of knowledge, techniques, and ideas about supporting kids in tough transitions and encouraging cooperation and independence, we are sharing our top four strategies for smooth drop-offs.
Get excited about the day. Before leaving the house, start building excitement about what’s in store at daycare. “I can’t wait to see what puzzles are on the table in the big room!” or “Simone will be happy to see you today. Do you think she’ll be jumping up and down?” Incorporate the care providers into the narrative. They are part of your kid’s team! “When we see Donna, let’s make sure to tell her about the dog we saw this morning. She’ll like to hear about it.”
Let your child lead the way in. It’s so tempting to carry our children from the car in the door — it’s faster! – but it creates a physical dependency that we have to untangle when we arrive. If a child can walk, let him walk in the door on his own two feet. Reinforcing his independence by saying “Show me where to go,” supports the idea that he is ready to navigate this space and conveys your trust.
Keep goodbyes brief. We had a ritual of a “Hug-and-a-kiss-and-a-push,” in which our toddlers gave us a little push out the door. Flipping the script so that they are encouraging us to leave makes it fun, and more importantly, empowers them. Plus, the consistent procedure lets them know what to expect every day.
Budget enough time for dawdling. Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool has a blog post about drop-off that suggests not being in a rush. We agree that shooting for early arrival allows a slow-moving child to avoid the pressure of being hurried. The extra time allows parents to greet teachers and connect with other parents. We’re aiming for positive energy here, not panic!
Finally, remember that when a child is screaming or crying at the gate, be kind, but firm, and walk away confidently. A child will usually recover pretty well once you’re on your way.